Clashes between Kurds and Syrian army troops leave 18 dead

AMMAN: Clashes erupted on Saturday between US-backed Kurdish fighters and Syrian troops in the centre of the city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria that left at least 18 people killed, Kurdish forces said. The fighting took place after a Syrian military convoy entered areas in the city which the Kurdish YPG militia’s internal security forces said were under their control. “They entered our areas of control and arrested civilians and members of the patrol targeted our forces,” the internal security forces, known as the Asayish, said in a statement. Kurdish forces said seven of its fighters and 11 Syrian military were killed in the clashes.
Pro-government sources told state media an army patrol was attacked by Kurdish forces while on its way to the airport. It said several troops were killed. The Kurdish YPG militia, which spearheads the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), controls most of the city and pro-government forces holding the airport and part of its centre.
On Friday, the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Syrian government offensive in the rebel-held Idlib province which the United Nations fears could cause a humanitarian catastrophe involving tens of thousands of civilians.
Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, meeting in Tehran for a summit, agreed in a final statement that there could be no military solution to the conflict and it could only end through a negotiated political process.
But as Syrian government and Russian warplanes mounted air strikes in Idlib on Friday morning in a possible prelude to a full-scale offensive, Putin and Rouhani pushed back against Erdogan’s call for a truce.
The Turkish leader said he feared a massacre and Turkey could not accommodate any more refugees flooding over its border.
Putin said a ceasefire would be pointless as it would not involve militant groups it deems terrorists. Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory.
Meanwhile, America’s top general on Saturday said he was involved in “routine dialogue” with the White House about military options should Syria ignore US warnings against using chemical weapons in an expected assault on Idlib.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision had been made by the United States to employ military force in response to a future chemical attack in Syria.
“But we are in a dialogue, a routine dialogue, with the president to make sure he knows where we are with regard to planning in the event that chemical weapons are used,” he told a small group of reporters during a trip to India.
Dunford later added: “He expects us to have military options and we have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.” — Reuters